There is an unmistakable feeling of community at Sunflower Cafe, where many guests know chef Gabrielle Mittelstaedt from her vegetarian cooking classes and her years developing community supported agriculture in Middle Tennessee. There is also a shared curiosity among diners, who lean between tables in this sunny Berry Hill cottage to ask questions such as “Is that roasted buckwheat in the stuffed pepper?” and offer endorsements such as “The cabbage salad with coconut, apple and currants is like an improved Waldorf.” Surprise, as much as anything, is the order of the day, with intriguing items such as millet-rutabaga mash, dairy-free chocolate mousse with tofu, tomato-based sloppy joes made with lentils, chai-tinged kombucha and banana-orzo pudding. Sunflower’s bountiful buffet is an encouraging reminder of the potential of plant-based food to delight and surprise the palate while nourishing the body.

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